History of the Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico

By Arlene Walsh, founder

​     In the fall of 1990, several horsemen (all of whom would later become members of the BCH of NM) planned to camp at the Holy Ghost Campground, a popular entry into the Pecos Wilderness of northern New Mexico. Fully loaded with horses, mules, the usual gear and enough food for a month, we arrived just as US Forest Service (USFS) workmen began pounding a sign at the entrance of the small parking lot. The sign declared "NO LIVESTOCK ALLOWED. $100 fine for violation." The workers knew enough about this new rule to tell us that this campground was off-limits to livestock because it was now a designated handicap use area; we were allowed to ride across the newly paved parking lot, but could not camp or hold our animals in the area. We packed up and moved to Jack's Creek horse camp at a higher elevation. We were probably the last horsemen to use Jack's Creek--the following week it too was closed. The area is usually closed after the hunting season since it is an elk wintering ground. When local newspapers informed us about a possible permanent closure of the Jack's Creek trail head by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) due to mine tailing contamination, we were alarmed and unable to get good information from the USFS at Pecos. 

    Something had to be done! "Somebody" had to do something. Then, I remembered an article I read about the Back Country Horsemen of America in the magazine "Equus" . . . great information about a service organization that did good things on horseback and worked with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Maybe they had a chapter here? Maybe they could help? So I wrote Lloyd Fagerland a letter and here's what happened . . . .


  • Fall 1990:  Holy Ghost Campground closed to horse camping secondary to handicap designation. Jack's Creek Trail head closed by order of EPA due to mine tailing contamination. 
  • January 1991:  Letter written to Lloyd Fagerland, Editor of BCHA's newsletter requesting information & what-to-do regarding trailhead closures. 
  •  February 1991:  Reply with encouragement to form BCH Chapter of New Mexico. 
  • March 1991:  BCHA starter packet received 
  • May 1991:  Application and letter received from Val Johnson, Expansion Coordinator
  • June 19th, 1991:  First official meeting of the newly formed BCH of New Mexico. Held in Albuquerque, NM                       President:  Arlene Walsh; Vice President:  Pat Coleman; Secretary:  Susan Steel; Treasurer:  Joann Clark
  • November 26, 1991:  Letter of acceptance from Mylon Filkins, Chairman of BCHA. 
  • December 1992:  The sole chapter of the BCH of NM incorporates and formally adopts the name  "BCH of NM, Pecos Chapter, Inc." Hopes to encourage new chapters to form. 
  • April 1993:  Second chapter forms. Northwest Chapter formed by George Marr, who was elected president. 
  • September 1994:  The two chapters work together to create a state organization. 
  • April 1995:  Back Country Horsemen of NM state organization gains approval by the board of directors of BCHA at the national meeting held in Santa Fe, NM. Angus Campbell serves as first chairman for New Mexico. 
  • June 1996:  State organization becomes incorporated. 
  • February 1997:  A third chapter forms in Santa Fe, NM and adopts the name "Santa Fe Chapter." First president is Vicki Thompson. 
  • June 1997:  The fourth chapter, Middle Rio Grande, forms with Lauri Johnson as President. 
  • August 1999:  Three Rivers Chapter forms from residents of the Four Corners area. Pam Iraci, first president. 
  • October 1999:  The sixth chapter forms. The Lower Rio Grande is started with Pat Bulls as the founding president. 
  • February 2001:  The seventh chapter, Gila, forms. Most successful chapter, starting with 12 members and ending with 67 adult and five kids by October of same year. 
  • October 2003:  Another chapter, Socorro, grows the BCHNM to eight chapters. 
  • 2013 Middle Rio Grand Chapter dissolves and members join the other nearby chapters. 
  • 2016:  Meetings take place as interest in forming a new chapter in the Grants/Gallup area unfolds. ​​The Zuni chapter joins the ranks of the Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico.

Our History

Formation of the Back Country Horsemen of America

    The Back Country Horsemen (BCH) first formed in Montana's Flathead Valley in January of 1973. Growth of the BCH

as an organization continued with the development of additional chapters in Montana. In 1977, The Back Country Horsemen of Washington was incorporated and established an informal liaison with the Montana and the Idaho Back Country Horsemen. 

     In 1981, a California organization known as the High Sierra Stock Users was formed and after several years of of discussion the four groups decided to merge. They would collectively call themselves the Back Country Horsemen of America. 

    A constitution was drafted in 1985 and accepted in 1986. A board of directors elected from each of the four units became the governing body of the new organization, thus uniting the Montana, Idaho, California, and Washington Back Country Horsemen. 

    Since that time, steady growth has occurred with the four founding state organizations. In addition, new state chapters have formed in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and nine other states, including Alaska, Florida, Arkansas, and Michigan. For more information on the national organization, visit www.backcountryhorse.com or the Facebook page at Back Country Horsemen of America. ​

Trail Advocacy


Service Projects 

About Us 

Our Purpose

  • To perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in America's back country and wilderness. 
  • To work to ensure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use. 
  • To assist the agencies responsible for the management of public lands in meeting their goals. 
  • To educate, encourage, and solicit active participation in the wise and sustaining use of the back country resource by horsemen and the general public commensurate with our heritage. 
  • To foster and encourage the formation of new state Back Country Horsemen organizations.